Note. — This selection is taken from a chapter in “ Kenilworth.” Young Walter Raleigh and his companion Blount have set off in a boat upon an errand to Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall.

They were launched on the princely bosom of the broad Thames, upon which the sun now shone forth in 5 all its splendor.

“There are two things scarce matched in the universe,” said Walter to Blount, " the sun in heaven and the Thames on the earth.”

“ The one will light us to Greenwich well enough,” 10 said Blount, “and the other would take us there a little faster if it were ebb tide. I could excuse both the sun and the moon the trouble of carrying me where I have no great mind to go, and where I expect but dog's wages for my trouble. By my honor,” he added, looking out from 15 the head of the boat, “it seems to me as if our message were a sort of labor in vain; for see, the Queen's barge lies at the stairs."

It was even so. The royal barge, manned with the Queen's watermen, richly attired in the regal liveries, 20 and having the banner of England displayed, did indeed lie at the great stairs which ascended from the river. As they approached the gate of the palace, one of the



[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

sergeant porters told them they could not at present enter, as Her Majesty was in the act of coming forth.

Nay, I told you as much before,” said Blount. I pray you, my dear Walter, let us take boat and return."

“Not till I see the Queen come forth," returned the youth composedly.

“ Thou art mad,” answered Blount.

“And thou,” said Walter, “ art turned" coward of the sudden. I have seen thee face half a score of shag-headed 10 kerns, and now thou wouldst blink and go back to shun the frown of a fair lady!”

At this moment the gates opened and ushers began to issue forth in array, preceded and flanked by the band of

gentlemen pensioners. After this, amid a crowd of lords 15 and ladies, yet so disposed around her that she could see

and be seen on all sides, came Elizabeth herself, then in the prime of womanhood, and in the full glow of what in a sovereign was called beauty.

The young cavalier had probably never yet approached 20 so near the person of his sovereign, and he pressed forward

as far as the line of warders permitted. His companion, on the contrary, kept pulling him backward, till Walter shook him off impatiently, letting his rich cloak drop

carelessly from one shoulder — a natural action, which 25 served, however, to display to the best advantage his well

proportioned person. Unbonneting at the same time, he fixed his eager gaze on the Queen's approach.

The warders, struck with his rich attire and noble countenance, suffered him to approach the ground over which the Queen was to pass. Thus the adventurous youth stood full in Elizabeth's eye — an eye never indifferent to the admiration which she deservedly excited 5


among her subjects, or to the fair proportions of external form which chanced to distinguish any of her courtiers. Accordingly, she fixed her keen glance on the youth, as she approached the place where he stood, with a look in which surprise at his boldness seemed to be unmingled 10 with resentment, while a trifling accident happened which attracted her attention toward him yet more strongly.

The night had been rainy, and just where the young gentlemen stood a small quantity of mud interrupted the Queen's passage.

As she hesitated to pass on, the gallant, throwing his cloak from his shoulders, laid it on the 5 miry spot so as to insure her stepping over it dry shod.

Elizabeth looked at the young man, who accompanied this act of devoted courtesy with a profound reverence and a blush that overspread his whole countenance.

The Queen was confused and blushed in her turn, 10 nodded her head, hastily passed on, and embarked in her barge without saying a word.

“Come along, Sir Coxcomb,” said Blount; “your gay cloak will need the brush to-day, I wot.”

“ This cloak,” said the youth, taking it up and folding 15 it, “shall never be brushed while in my possession.”

“ And that will not be long, if you learn not a little more economy.”

Their discourse was here interrupted by one of the band of pensioners.

“I was sent," said he, after looking at them attentively, “to a gentleman who hath no cloak, or a muddy one. You, sir, I think,” addressing the younger cavalier, “are the man; you will please to follow me.”

“He is in attendance on me,” said Blount.

“I have nothing to say to that,” answered the messenger; “my orders are directly from Her Majesty, and concern this gentleman only.”






So saying, he walked away, followed by Walter, leaving the others behind, Blount's eyes almost starting from his head with the excess of his astonishment. The

young cavalier was in the meanwhile guided to the water side by the pensioner who showed him considerable respect, 5 a circumstance which, to persons in his situation, may be considered as an augury of no small consequence. He ushered him into one of the wherries which lay ready to attend the Queen's barge, which was already proceeding up the river.

The two rowers used their oars with such expedition at the signal of the gentleman pensioner that they very soon brought their little skiff under the stern of the Queen's boat, where she sat beneath an awning, attended by two or three ladies and the nobles of her household. She 15 looked more than once at the wherry in which the young adventurer was seated, spoke to those around her, and seemed to laugh.

At length one of the attendants, by the Queen's order apparently, made a sign for the wherry to come alongside, 20 and the young man was desired to step from his own skiff into the Queen's barge, which he performed with graceful agility at the fore part of the boat, and was brought aft to the Queen's presence, the wherry at the same time dropping into the rear. The youth underwent the gaze 25 of majesty, not the less gracefully that his self-possession was mingled with embarrassment. The muddied cloak

« 前へ次へ »